TEL AVIV – A video published online by the Islamic State group showing snipers from Wilayat Sinai, the group’s Egyptian affiliate, shooting Egyptian soldiers has many asking how the advanced sniper equipment fell into IS hands.
Military analysts in Egypt who spoke to a news website run by Al Arabiya suggested that the weapons seen in the video are used by the Iranian military and its partner militias, and may have been captured by IS militants during combat in Syria or Iraq, where the group is fighting the Syrian and Iraqi militaries as well as Shi’ite militias.
The guns have been identified as the AM50 and Dragunov sniper rifles. Hatem Saber, an Egyptian analyst, said that the AM50 – also known as “The Hunter” – is one of the most advanced sniper rifles in the world. It is an intimidating 1.5 meters in length and has an effective range of 1,700 meters.
According to Saber, the gun is also highly advantageous on the battlefield due to its night vision sights. “Today there are two variants of this rifle: one Iranian and one Austrian, and it’s used by the armies of Syria, Iran, Russia and Mexico,” he said.
According to the Egyptian military analysts, the second weapon seen in the video is the Dragunov, a Russian rifle good in tough combat environments like the desert and resistant to changing weather conditions; it first went into service in 1967.
Hussam Sweilem, a former Egyptian army colonel, says that IS acquired the rifle from Iraqi army stores in Mosul, as well as from Shi’ite and Iranian militias fighting in Syria. “I believe that IS managed to get this gun during battles against [Syrian President] Assad’s armies, Hezbollah and the Iranian militias in Syria,” he said. “The organization also bought the gun in international markets.”
According to Sweilem, the goal of the video was to raise the morale of IS fighters while damaging that of Egypt’s soldiers.
Military expert Khaled Ukasha told Al Arabiya that the snipers seen in the video are IS fighters from Syria. “These are not IS’s people in Sinai. IS in Sinai doesn’t have any fighters with such sniper fire capabilities. I think these are fighters who got in through tunnels or over sea and joined IS’s fighters in Sinai to relieve some pressure from the organization in Sinai after the assassination of its leaders and the damage to its strongholds.”
According to Ukasha, “These are fighters from the organization who were trained in the group’s camps in Raqqa by experts. Such training requires time and territory far from the eyes of the army and security forces, which is not possible in Sinai but is in Raqqa and was also in Mosul.”